In fake currency hub Malda, there's a real collection of currency from 150 countries

Fifty-year-old Biswajit Gupta has collected coins and currency notes of 150 countries without ever travelling abroad.

Malda district in West Bengal, which is the hub of fake Indian currency notes (FICN), also boasts of a man who has possibly one of the largest collections of coins and currency notes from 150 countries.

Biswajit Gupta, 50, has never flown out of the country and but that did not stop him from building a rare currency collection from across the world.

Biswajit's passion for coin collection started in 1985 when a relative who had travelled to Middle East gave him the country's currency. For Biswajit, it was a way of seeing a country without physically travelling to that place.

Biswajit works with a private company and earns around Rs 10,000 a month. The money is just about sufficient to run a family of four yet Biswajit has somehow managed to sustain his passion of coin collection all these years.

"Now, I have a collection of coins and currency notes from around 150 countries," Biswajit said.

HELP FROM DIFFERENT CORNERS

In his pursuit for currency from different countries, he has interacted with tourists seeking their help to exchange a few of their notes with him.

"Whenever doctors from Malda travel abroad, they bring me that country's currency. At times, when I go on trips in India and meet foreigners at tourist spots, I ask them to exchange their currency with me," Biswajit said.

Biswajit's target is to collect currency from at least 200 countries. "I have collected currency of US, Britain, France, England, Germany, Japan, China, among many other countries," he said. He has also collected coins that belong to Mughal era and Tipu Sultan's time.

Biswajit, who is a member of the Numismatics Society, said his dream is to build a museum at his house where he can display his prized collection.

FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS

His daughter Sayanti Gupta said that when she was young she thought her father was wasting his money on collecting coins. "When I started growing up I realised this was my father's hobby and I felt that I should support him. It feels good to see his collection growing. We are not rich and we may never get to travel abroad but through these coins and currency notes I feel that I have known something about a foreign country," Sayanti said.

Sayanti's brother Barshik joined the conversation and said that while he has often read about Babur, Akbar in his history books, the coins gave him a glimpse of that period. "I search relevant topics related to old coins and currency on the Internet and share those with my father to help improve and expand his collection," Barshik said.

Over the years, Biswajit's popularity has grown and now he teaches interested youngsters, free of cost, about the art of coin collection (numismatics).

One of his students Priya Dutt was initially not interested in the subject but as she learnt more about studying coins she started maintaining her own collection.

Priya's mother, who was scoffed at the idea of her daughter collecting coins, has come around and now supports her in chasing her dream of being a collector of coins like Biswajit.

(with inputs from Bhaskar Roy in Malda)